A rich and di­verse col­lec­tion

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - YOU - BILL ROBERT­SON

MU­SIC FROM TUR­TLE IS­LAND: SONGS FOR FREE­DOM Tur­tle Is­land Mu­sic ★★★★

Here’s an­other round of songs — a com­pi­la­tion pack­age — from the sta­ble of singer/song­writer/ mu­si­cians at Tur­tle Is­land Mu­sic in Saska­toon. And it’s a rich and di­verse 11 songs.

There are two songs about the soul, opener Scars of the Soul, by Denise Lance­ley, an emo­tive bal­lad-type tune about the scars left by a bad re­la­tion­ship. Then there’s Elvis Bal­lan­tyne’s coun­try-gospel num­ber If I Give My Soul, in which he tries to fig­ure the odds of mak­ing his peace with Je­sus.

Greg Ed­munds’ Neechee Girl con­trasts easy­go­ing vo­cals about a tra­di­tional woman who is ev­ery­thing to the singer and some great spiky lead gui­tar fills. In­deed, great gui­tar works helps make this al­bum sail, from the nice lead lines on Jay Ross’s al­most grungy Inside of Me, to the slide gui­tar on the fifties coun­try sound of Ray Ville­brun’s Yes­ter­day, to the lead gui­tar breaks on Wake Up Red’s folk rock con­nec­tion to the spir­i­tual num­ber Out of the Blue.

Phil Boyer goes for a Metis jig feel on Dance Dance, watch­ing his grand­kids do just that, Gar­ri­son Parker turns to the alt-folk chan­nel on his My Mis­takes, and Becky Thomas wishes for the Eyes of a Child so she can see the pur­pose in God’s plan. A star­tling range of songs and su­perb mu­si­cian­ship.

IAN THOMAS: A LIFE IN SONG Alma Records ★★★★

Back be­fore Buddy Holly stood his ground in the rock stu­dio and Way­lon and Wil­lie did the same in Nashville, cor­pu­lent mu­sic pro­duc­ers with dol­lars in their eyes took pas­sion­ate, small combo mu­sic of the bars and dance halls, shel­lacked it with strings and horns, and made it soul­less and palat­able for the ra­dios of the mid­dle class. They could have taken War Pigs by Black Sabbath and made it into a hit for Bing Crosby.

What a supreme irony it is that de­pend­able Cana­dian hit­maker Ian Thomas has taken his fine, small combo rock­ers and bal­lads and dressed them up in strings and horns, mak­ing gui­tar songs fit for the sym­phony hall. In this case it’s Hamil­ton Place with the Hamil­ton Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

Mind you, we all get older, and Thomas is no ex­cep­tion. What would have been a sell­out (or a cor­po­rate muscling in) 40 years ago is now just an­other way of ex­plor­ing some great songs.

They’re all here, with a sweet vi­o­lin punc­tu­at­ing the ti­tle line on Right Be­fore Your Eyes or a sim­ple har­mon­ica adding an­other di­men­sion to Twenty Five Thou­sand Days. Hold On, af­ter San­tana’s en­er­getic vo­cals and gui­tar work­out gets put into an evening suit, and it fits, but I miss the pop­ping bass on Pi­lot. There is bass there, still, but not with the pluck it once had. Ah well, ev­ery­thing changes.

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